Avenue of the Giants
Scenic Drive Through California’s Redwood Trees
No physical border indicated that we were there– that we were finally in the presence of giants. But, as we drove into the misty shadows of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, we knew.
A foreboding shadow was cast over the car, and I had to crane my neck to get a decent view. The sun was being blocked out on all sides by trees as tall as skyscrapers, and we were traversing the road which cut straight through the park. We had entered a completely different world. We were driving along the Avenue of the Giants, in the shadows of the tallest trees on earth.
The most outstanding display of giant trees you’ll find in northern California’s redwood belt, the Avenue of the Giants is a world-famous scenic drive. This 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 runs parallel to Freeway 101, boasting around 51,000 acres of Redwood groves. It’s a natural phenomenon as awe-inspiring as the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar, and just as unique to this corner of the world.
Visitors from all across the globe are drawn here to witness these ancient forests, which stand at mesmerizing heights. And it was easy to see why: Beams of faint sunlight attempt to force their way through the canopy of towering trees, but what light does sneak in is faint, creating a mystical atmosphere that lends a fairy tale quality to these magical woods.
The environment here is enchanted, indeed. The Avenue of the Giants is encircled by 53,000 acres of forests, meadows and watersheds, offering 100+ miles of hiking, biking and riding trails. Around 10,000 acres of that is home to the Rockefeller Forest, which boasts the largest remaining stand of old growth Redwoods in the world. The park also protects vast prairies, oak woodlands, and wild riverways, all supporting a rich mosaic of wildlife diversity and cultural traditions.
At the turn of the 20th century, California’s Redwood forests were in grave danger of going the way of the Dodo due to an unchecked logging industry. The State of California and the non-profit organization Save the Redwoods League ultimately responded by purchasing hundreds of groves and establishing 26 state parks in order to protect them.
As a result, today the region has plenty of excellent outdoor recreation opportunities on offer, providing facilities for those who wish to take time to picnic, camp, hike, swim, fish, raft or cycle in the cool hush of the Redwood forest.
All along the Avenue of the Giants, eight Auto Tour signs signal interpretative panels and interesting places to stop. Parking areas are generally available around 200 feet beyond these signs.
While driving may give you a windshield-framed panorama of these gargantuan trees, in order to truly appreciate the Redwoods you really must walk among them. Stop at the posted trail heads and you won’t be disappointed, as the opportunity to walk among the tallest trees in the world will leave you on a natural high. Lay on the ground and stare up to the sky and you will find yourself gazing at Earth’s tallest living things.
For those completing the drive along California’s Highway 101, the Avenue of the Giants (also known as State Route 252) is considered a more scenic alternative. Cutting away from the coastal highway for this portion of the drive is absolutely worth your while.
There are several opportunities along the route to access Highway 101 again. While most people know that California’s Redwood National Park is home to the tallest trees on earth, when driving north along the famed Highway 101 you will encounter the Avenue of the Giants first.
Summertime here draws a high volume of tourists, so consider making a trip to visit in fall or spring and avoid most of the bustling crowds. Not only will you find less people around, but seasonal bird migrations only serve to enhance the beauty of the Redwood groves at this time of year.
The Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center is located on the Avenue two miles south of Weott, and presents a fantastic opportunity to stretch your legs and gather more information on the area and its natural resources.
Nestled within those mighty trees you’ll find several small, sleepy towns where tourists can stop to grab a bite to eat or browse for souvenirs. And it should probably go without saying that all stops provide awe-inspiring vistas! –by Meg Jerrard; photos by Mike Jerrard
Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist, and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe. With a mission to inspire others to embark on their own adventure, Megan and husband Mike believe that travel has the potential to inspire change in people, and in turn inspire change in the world. They embraced travel as a lifestyle in 2007, and are dedicated to documenting their journey and observations through entertaining, candid articles and brilliant photography. You can follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.
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